Dr James Ransom

Higher Education Specialist

My work looks at how universities can help solve challenges facing society.Photo of James RansomJames Ransom I am co-founder of Open Impact, and Head of Research at the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE). I am also an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at UCL Institute of Education, and I am a Specialist Advisor on higher education to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I am based in the UK, but have extensive international experience, including recent research in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. This page also provides info on my PhD, and my other work.

You can contact me via email. You can also find me on LinkedIn. See ORCID for some of my publications.

Open Impact

I co-founded Open Impact with Dr Richard Whittle in early 2023. We help universities better understand their local contribution and make better decisions. We are ‘of the sector’, with extensive experience working with universities and sector bodies, and our data analysis is grounded in policy experience. So far we’ve worked with over 35 universities, large and small.


I am Head of Research at the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE), an international organisation set up by UK Government in 2004. I lead and design research projects that explore the impact of innovation in higher education. I help inform NCEE’s policy positions by authoring reports, briefings, and other publications on key issues in enterprise and entrepreneurship. My work also involves promoting research findings and advocating for evidence-based policies through events, conferences, and wider engagement.


I recently completed my PhD at UCL Institute of Education, looking at the roles of universities in cities in Africa.

The research investigates the local engagement of flagship universities in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on their role in regional development. It examines ten African flagship universities, with a detailed case study on the University of Rwanda, using strategic plan analyses and interviews with key stakeholders. The study reveals that while these institutions have a strong national focus, driven by a blend of market forces and public roles, they also engage locally, particularly in city regions where global, national, and local dynamics intersect. The research introduces frameworks to assess the extent and stages of local engagement and to navigate institutional challenges, ultimately discussing the broader implications of these flagships’ local roles in national development.

Other work

Over the past few years I have completed work for the British Council, the Royal Society, the British Academy, Imperial College London, Greater Manchester Universities, KPMG, GuildHE, Rwanda Action, the University of Hamburg, Universities UK, the Government Office for Science, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (now Research England) and British Council International Education Services.

In 2018-19 I led an eight country research project for the British Council on ‘smart cities’ which attracted national and international press coverage.

In the past I’ve worked for Universities UK, UNESCO Vietnam, and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. I have been a Research Affiliate at the University of Rwanda, an Associate at Yorkshire Universities, an Associate at Work and Learning Opportunities (a Sussex-based social enterprise), and an Advisory Associate at the Class of 2020, a Dutch NGO focused on urban campuses. I have also been a reading committee member for the UK Government’s Chevening scholarship programme.